L is for L= live, laugh and love (your audience)

How many times have you sat through a meeting or presentation that was so dull and lifeless, you could only wish for it to end? What does suck the life out of these communication modes, and how can we get it back?

Here are some ways you can add more life and living to your speaking:

Only speak on topics that you can get excited about. If you can’t breathe life into them, maybe you should let them go. Write a memo or email instead.

Find the personal connection. How do you relate to this topic? How has it impacted you or those close to you? Why is it important? What are one or two stories you could tell to breathe new life into this material?

Get as close as you can to your material. Steep yourself in it. Read or scan books, blogs or articles so you will be refreshed and full of new thinking on the subject.

Engage the audience. Give them a quiz, put them in small groups to work on a problem, or ask them to share their thoughts with each other. Ask them for their stories and experiences. Often you can bring your energy and theirs together to make the content come alive.

Thoughts on bringing laughter to your speaking:

Don’t force humor. If you try too hard to make people laugh, you often just make them uncomfortable. Laughter is meant to relax and connect, so the more you force it the more it won’t work. Don’t try to be funny; just be lighthearted and see what happens.

Don’t tell jokes. Again, the harder you try the less funny you will probably be. Jokes are especially worrisome; there is always someone who gets laughed at. And so many times you run the risk of offending, or wasting time, or forgetting the punch line.

Do find natural, spontaneous humor and go with it. When you take a light-hearted approach, things just seem to happen that are funny. Mistakes can be funny as long as no one gets hurt; I often laugh at my own spelling or handwriting on a flip chart. Yes, it’s that bad. But if I can laugh at that, you might feel less concern if you make a mistake.

Laugh early and often. I find if I can get a chuckle or even a sparkle in someone’s eyes in the first 5-10 minutes, it’s going to be easier to laugh and have fun throughout the day. This dispels anxiety—mine and the listeners’ and makes the whole experience more human.

Have you ever thought about your audience, really connected with them to the point that you could say you loved them? If you have, you know what a moving experience that can be. If not, you might be missing out on making genuine connections, and that could leave you worrying about being perfect or impressive when you speak. Instead, think of connecting with and loving your audience, and you will see something shift.

How to “love” your audience:

Target your content to them. Never give a canned pitch or presentation; people can smell them coming a mile away and no one wants to hear them. Target you message, your language, and the examples and stories you tell, so that the audience sees that you understand them. (If you can’t do that, then use universal stories and themes that most people can relate to.)

Be curious about them. If you are all wrapped up in yourself, trying to be perfect every moment, you won’t have any energy to think about the audience. When you start to wonder about what they are experiencing, you can make stronger connections. I recently worked with an individual who never asked a single question about me in two days of working together. If he was curious or cared about me as a person I had no way of knowing.

Be helpful to them. If you desire to be perfect in your communication, that puts tremendous pressure on you to perform rather than to connect. Audiences always want to know how the information will impact them. If you can provide useful information, they won’t care if it is delivered perfectly or not.

Be real with them. For years, I wore a mask as a professional trainer. I didn’t let people know much about me, as I didn’t want my presentations and workshops to be about me. Over time I learned that it is about them and me. Just as you “see them” the audience wants to “see you.” Who are you as a person, what is important to you, and what kind of cookies do you like best? The audience doesn’t want to hear about you ad nauseum, that’s for sure, but don’t hold back everything either. Let them see you, and let them see you care.

So live, laugh and love your audience. Bring your content to life, and share your laughter and personality. Yes, get down to business. Have good information, well organized. But be sure you don’t overlook the human side of speaking.

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